Some former members of Afghan special forces who fled to Iran after the Taliban took over Afghanistan are now being recruited to fight for Russia in Ukraine and for Iran in Yemen, said former Afghan ex-members. Two senior security officials told VOA.
Former Afghan Army Secretary General Haibatullah Alzai said Tehran is using the vulnerability of former Afghan forces now living in the country to recruit them to bolster Yemen’s Houthi rebels. .
“When former Afghan military members go to the Iranian immigration office to extend their visas, they are told to go to Yemen to fight in support of the Houthis,” Alzai told VOA.
Mohammad Farid Ahmadi, former commander of Afghanistan’s elite National Army Special Forces, told VOA that former Afghan special forces are now serving “six key regions” of the world. Nagorno-Karabakh, Ukraine, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Russia but “in small groups”
Afghan commandos trained by the US and NATO are considered to be the most experienced ex-military personnel in Afghanistan. Before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, special forces commanded most of the complex combat operations across the country.
According to the Associated Press, Russia is now recruiting former Afghan special forces in Iran to fight alongside Ukrainian forces for “a $1,500 monthly payment and a safe haven for themselves and their families.” We are trying to provide the promise of the place.
Officials at the Russian embassy in Washington and Iran’s UN representative did not respond to e-mail inquiries about whether the government was recruiting former Afghan troops and special forces. The Associated Press reported that Evgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, dismissed claims to recruit former Afghan soldiers as “crazy nonsense.”
But pressure on Afghans to fight is not a new tactic. In 2016, Human Rights Watch said Iran was using Afghan refugees as soldiers fighting in Syria.
About 30,000 special forces served in Afghanistan before the Taliban took control of Kabul, said Ahmadi, a former army special forces leader.
“Now most of the former Afghan special forces are inside Afghanistan under cover of disguise,” Ahmadi said, adding that “many of them were detained and tortured by the Taliban.”
A report released by the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released months ago said former Afghan Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan were “almost certainly” involved in the fledgling rebellion known as the National Resistance Front. Joined the establishment group. Or they live in hiding for fear of being killed or imprisoned by the Taliban.
Ahmadi said some of the former soldiers were held in Taliban prisons and tortured. However, after the tribal elders intervened, many were paid and released, vowing never to talk about their treatment in prison.
Ahmadi said Afghan special forces felt betrayed by the country’s former political leaders, whom many now describe as “desperate, hopeless and vulnerable”.
He also called on Washington officials to help the Afghans who have fought side by side with the US military for the past two decades.
“The United States must keep its promise and not let these forces be hired as mercenaries,” Ahmadi said.
Washington ‘in a difficult position’
At a news briefing in Washington on Oct. 31, State Department spokesman Edward Price responded to questions about Afghan Special Forces recruitment. But I do not know that I am in a position to confirm that such Afghan special forces did in fact participate in President Putin’s war. ”
Rand Corporation policy researcher Jason Campbell said Washington is logistically speaking limited to Iran, where former Afghan Special Forces live, and parts of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. “We are in a difficult position,” he said.
“It is certainly a difficult decision for the United States to make in terms of trying to take steps to ensure the security of all these thousands of special forces. , [also] Other states may see an opportunity here to recruit some of these…experienced and well-trained fighters who find themselves living in hopeless conditions.
Bill Loggio, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told VOA that the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan caused the problem.
“This is one of the unintended consequences of the disastrous withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan. We have left behind tens of thousands of highly trained Afghan soldiers. They were on the front lines of the fight against the Taliban.”
Roggio added: [former Afghan commandos] But by telling them that Russia will give them the opportunity to obtain Russian citizenship and that you will fight for us in Ukraine, we will help you and help your family. attractive to ”
Lina Rozbih contributed to this report. The story originated with VOA’s Afghan service.